Family Link Features are Being Added to Chromebooks

Family Link Added to Chromebooks

Family Link Features are Being Added to Chromebooks

It appears that Google is slowly adding Family Link features to Chromebooks. This move is long overdue and there are still glitches, but it’s a step in the right direction. If you’re looking for details about how Family Link works on Android (non-Chromebook) smartphones and tablets, we’ve explained those, too.

Related information: Android Parental Controls

Google removed Supervised Users with little warning!

In January 2018, Google froze their Supervised User feature without adding a replacement feature, and homes using Chromebooks were astonished. Other than services like Mobicip (which we’ve recommended for years), Google’s Supervised User functionality provided parents some monitoring and peace of mind for the millions of children who depend on Chromebooks at home.

Then in an instant, the feature was gone. Google gave users less than a week’s notice.

In an equally baffling move, slowly and quietly during 2018, Google started adding some Family Link features to Chromebooks. Mentions of Family Link started showing up on Google Support Articles slowly and without any mention or fanfare from Google. If you go to Family Link and click on “Supported Devices,” Chromebooks aren’t even mentioned! No one knows why.

From the beginning, Google has labeled itself as an unconventional company and this approach certainly fits that label.

What is Google Family Link?

Family Link was created as a way for parents to control how their children navigate their Android devices (phones and tablets) and Chromebooks. Family Link is stricter if the child is less than 13 and has slightly different features if the child is 13-17.

Family Link now (partially) works on Chromebooks!

That heading is true. Not all of Family Link’s features available on Android are also available for the current Chromebook release. Here is the current feature set, showing which are available on each Google platform:

Family Link Features for Chromebooks

For the “in Beta” items above, Google is testing a few new Family Link features for Chromebooks that we are watching.

Setting Up Family Link on Chromebooks

We’ll provide explanations and a few screen shots to show you what to do. We wish it was a much easier process – especially for iPhone parents who might be discouraged by what they’re about to read. Apple families might just conclude that they’re just happier using Mobicip’s Chromebook extension for now.

Start by opening the Family Link App on your Android or iPhone. 

1. On your own parental device, download the Family Link app from your app store (Google Play for Android or App Store on iPhones).

Family Link(Family Link App Icon)

2. When you open the Family Link App for the first time, you’ll see a screen that asks you to “make sure your child’s device is nearby.”

3. Next, the app will lead you through a series of screens asking you if your child already has a Google account. This is where it gets a little complicated (actually, a lot complicated), depending on whether you have an Android or iPhone:

If your child is <13 and doesn’t have a Gmail account yet, answer “NO” when asked, “Does your child have a Google Account” and follow the prompts. Eventually, you’ll get to the Family Link screen for your family where it will say, “To supervise [name]’s screen time…have him/her sign in to a Chromebook with her [newly created Gmail account].”

If you child is <13 and already has a Gmail account, but you want to add Family Link supervision to the account, answer “YES” when asked, “Does your child have a Google Account” and the only way to complete the process is to do so with an Android phone (not possible through the Family Link App for iPhone).

If your child is >13, and doesn’t have a Gmail account yet, you can’t create one through the Family Link app. Create a Gmail account like other adults, and then come back to the Family Link App. Answer “YES” when asked, “Does your child have a Google Account” and the only way to complete the process is to do so with an Android phone (not possible through the Family Link App for iPhone).

If you child is >13 and already has a Gmail account, but you want to add Family Link supervision to the account, answer “YES” when asked, “Does your child have a Google Account” and the only way to complete the process is to do so with an Android phone (not possible through the Family Link App for iPhone).

We’re attempting to get a response from Google about why it’s still so difficult for iPhone users to complete the process (link to Forum question).

4. [If you have an Android device] Complete the “pairing” process. You are now ready to set-up the Chromebook device so that it uses Family Link appropriately.

Make sure the Chromebook is set-up properly.

Steps 5-9 don’t have anything to do with Family Link. Instead, these are basic Chromebook set-up steps to make sure your child can’t circumvent the Family Link process. Actually, steps 5-9 below are really good steps for any family who wants decent control over who is using the family Chromebook.

5. On the Chromebook, make sure everyone is signed out.

6. In the lower left corner, click “Add Person”

Note: it’s possible that when you, as the parent administrator, set up the Chromebook, you set it up in a way as to NOT allow to users to be added to the Chromebook. Actually, we recommend that parents set up their Chromebooks in this way. Therefore, before you click “Add Person,” you will probably have to do the following:

  • Click your profile in the lower right corner.
  • Click the settings (gear) icon.
  • Select “Manage others users”
  • Click the plus sign to “Add person”
  • Type in the name and email of the newly created account of the <13-year-old child (this is the process to follow anytime you want to allow a new person to access the Chromebook).

7. Now, back to the “Add Person” option in the lower, left, following the Google prompt, type in the email address of the child for the account you just created in the Family Link app.

8. You’ll then be prompted to go through a series of screens verifying that you’re the parent, starting with the one below. Whatever parent email you established as the primary account during the Family Group set-up in Family Link will appear here:

Chromebook Family Link

9. Toward the end of the set-up on the Chromebook, you’ll see this screen titled, “Important Note for Parents,” which tells you what Family Link features are and aren’t available. Similar to our feature table above. Also, the final screen you’ll see is where Google wants to make sure the Chromebook was set up correctly by an Administrator to prevent circumvention of the Family Link settings. This is what we explained above in step 6 where you added a person. In the “Manage other people” settings, it should look like this if it was done properly:

Chromebook set-up

Go back to the Family Link App and set the proper restrictions.

10. When you complete the Chromebook set-up in steps 5-9 above, the Family Link App on your mobile device will complete step three, “Connect to your child’s device,” and you should then see the newly added Chromebook listed in your child’s account in the Family Link app.

11. Next, ensure the correct limits/restrictions are in place. Click the “MANAGE SETTINGS” link in your child’s Family Link account as shown in the image on the left (which will then take you to the image on the right).

Family Link Settings12. You’ll want to click through each of the items in this list. Under Controls on Google Play, you’ll want to set age ratings for apps that you want your child to have access to. Under Filters on Google Chrome, you’ll want to make sure “Try to block mature sites” is checked. Note that you can also create a white list here also. A white list is a short list of the ONLY sites that you want your child to have access to, which can be nice for young internet users. Under Filters on Google Search, you’ll want to make sure “SafeSearch” is toggled on.

Note: for now, Location setting doesn’t work for Chromebooks, even through you can set it in the app.

13. Under the “…More,” you can Manage Google Activity. In there, you’ll see an option “Choose who can manage activity controls” and if you select “Only parents,” Google shows the strange pop-up notification, shown below:

Family Link Set-up

I don’t have a clear understanding of what “certain Google services” will be restricted, but I’ll report back when I do. The statement, “Your child will still be able to access and delete her past activity” initially made us upset, but after some interaction with Google’s support, we actually discovered some very good news.

We discovered that if parents follow the steps above, they will be able to prevent their son or daughter from deleting web history, which we’ve tested and are really pleased with.


Can kids erase web history while being supervised by Family Link?

In images 1-3 below, we are in the parent Family Link app.

Chromebook web history

In image 4, which we get to after clicking on “Chrome dashboard” link in image 3 above, we are transported to a Google Chrome page in Safari where you can click on “Clear History.” Based on our testing, this is the only way to delete the search history.

We tried clearing the Chrome history from the Chromebook after we were logged in with a Family Link supervised account.

Image 5 below is from the Chromebook after clicking on the three vertical dots in the upper right corner of Chrome where you can drill into Chrome web history. As you can see, there is a “Clear browsing history” option in the left menu, but when it’s clicked, what you see in image 6 doesn’t give the user the option to actually clear the websites.

The user (child) can only clear cookies and the cache when clicking the “Clear Data” button, which is great (in other words, a child wouldn’t be able to hide his/her steps by clearing history).

Google Family Link

Google Family Link

Current Family Link Limitations on Chromebooks

Overall, Family Link has a lot of room for improvement.

[As explained above in Step 3] You can’t add Family Link supervision to an existing account for kids <13 or do anything for kids >13 unless you have an Android device. It took 2 weeks and multiple conversations with Google support to figure this out. We’re still pressing Google to resolve this.

Profiles for kids <13 are locked into using YouTube Kids. This is a real problem for kids in junior high, who are often required to use YouTube for school. We’re pressing Google for a more flexible solution here.

You cannot add any Chrome extensions to a Family Link profile. Meaning, you can’t add Mobicip’s monitoring on top of Family Link.

You cannot access school issued G-Suite accounts if you’re logged into a Chromebook with Family Link. Some kids have school email accounts that go something like [email protected] where they have Google Drive for homework. But, once you’re logged in with a Family Link Gmail account, you can’t get to that Google Drive under the school-issued email. A Google Family Link employee says that resolving this is a “top priority” in this forum post.

Family Link for Chromebooks is a work-in-progress

Google really seems to be dragging their heels on providing families an easy-to-control Chromebook environment. We’re honestly baffled by his. There are so many unprotected Chromebooks being used by kids.

For now, the easiest move for most parents is to just use Mobicip’s extension until Google figures out the rough spots. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s good enough for many kids.

50 thoughts on “Family Link Features are Being Added to Chromebooks”

  1. Have you tried to delete browser history as the child? I was a little confused by that as well, but when I actually tried to delete the browsing history on the newly set-up Family Link Chromebook, I couldn’t. Maybe I was doing it incorrectly. I’ll have to try again. Just curious if you had actually tried to and had the same experience I did.

  2. Hi, Ryan – I think you’re correct! I had the same experience and although I can click on “delete browsing history” and it seems to delete cookies and such, it doesn’t remove the URL history from Chrome! Awesome. Thank you for pointing me there and I’ll update the blog post accordingly!


  3. Adrian Bunting

    Just tried to do this in UK then saw in small print that Family Link is only available for Chromebook users in US 🙁

  4. I wrote an email to Google asking about this, and this is the response I received: “From the information I found, you can delete your kids browing history from within the Family Link app but they won’t be able to delete browsing history from their device.

    The option to do so is grayed out.

    You can view your child’s web history with them on their device.”

  5. I cant seem to be able to set screen time limits for the chromebook through the Family Link App. Is this not available for chromebooks?

  6. Hi, Ann – you’re correct. Right now, screen time controls for Family Link are only available for Android tablets and smart devices, but not on Chromebooks. That’s one of those “not avail. yet” items in the grid in the blog post, but I sure hope they add that soon!


  7. I set up an account for my child through family link, and all the apps I had installed from Google Play Store in my parent account were not visible or accessible in my child’s account, meaning they couldn’t use any app other than the preloaded ones, and there’s was no way for me to change this. Did I miss something or is google play and the apps downloaded from there really not available to a family link account on a Chromebook?

  8. Hi, Sue – some of this is untested on Chromebooks yet, but from what I’m reading, apps that you’ve placed in your Family Library should be able to be accessed by your child on the Chromebook. I’m looking at the Family Link app on my phone right now, and in the settings for my daughter’s Chromebook profile, it says, “Choose what Lauren can browse on Google Play. She will still need your approval for new purchases or downloads, unless they’re from your Family Library.”

    Here’s a Family Library support article: https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/7007852?hl=en

    Best of luck!

  9. So if my child has to use their school account on their Chromebook, Family Link won’t work?

  10. Hi, Emiko – Family Link connects to an email address that is used to access the device upon login. Once in the Chromebook, your child can log into their school Google account through Chrome. So, if the school account is the one that’s used to log into the device right now, that would have to change. Does that help?


  11. Chris,Thank you for the info we needed to help keep our Chromebook safer for our children. I have hit a roadblock however. I have completed all the steps to create a google account for my child, but when I go to his Chromebook and click on Add User it tells me Google won’t allow me to go here. Please help so I can continue to set up the controls we need.

  12. Hi! Is it because you’re not the administrator for the Chromebook? That’s the only thing I can point to. If you’re unsure, you might want to perform a factory reset to get a fresh start and then set yourself up as the Administrator.

    Hope that helps!

  13. 2 Issues.
    1) Once logged in to child account in Chrome OS is doesn’t allow to login to any other Gmail account.
    2) You mentioned in another post https://protectyoungeyes.com/content/chromebook/ “Step 4: Use a FILTER. Mobicip has filtering for Chromebooks” The issue is that I have no way of adding this app MobiCip to child account, once I logout of the admin and switch users it doesn’t show or allow to add the app.

    Thank you

  14. Hello, thank you for your 2 comments. For 1), you’re absolutely correct, and we are changing the blog post to agree with this, which we did not catch during our initial testing. We’ve started a campaign to send feedback to Google to get this changed. 2) this one, I’m not sure. I’m going to poke around and get back to you.

    Take care!


    Yeah I have parental controls on my daughter’s Chromebook but it has removed the Play Store. So why the hell does it matter if she is authorized 10+ apps when there is no store to get then from!

  16. When I tried to log in with my child’s account, it says “couldn’t sign you in. Looks like your Google Account can’t go here”. I read elsewhere that you cannot sign in on a Chromebook with a Family Link child account. I was hoping that wasn’t the case.

  17. Hi, James – I’m not sure what’s happening. Family Link does work on Chromebooks. Is there anything in the Family Link Account settings that might be preventing you from using the account on a Chromebook? I’m not aware of being able to do that, but that’s the only thing that comes to mind.


  18. My son will be a freshman this year (over 13) and is going to a “bring-your-own-device” school. Is a chromebook off the table at this point? He will need to access his school gmail account so family link will not work. Mobicip is easily disabled from what I read. Any other alternatives? I wish the console management tools would be available to families…seems like it would solve the problems. Go to a windows device?

  19. Terri A Starr

    Got a chromebook for my daughter’s birthday (age 11). Spent 4 hours on her b-day trying to set up Family Link, and she is still unable to access google play at all, nor any of the apps I downloaded on my account to family share. We’re close to returning it, and getting a windows 10.

  20. Hi, BD – I’m in the process of testing a possible solution for your Chromebook that is not easily disabled, like Mobicip. It’s called Blocksi, and I should have some results soon. This solution should provide some of the console management tools that you’re hoping for, if their features are true to their marketing. Please look for an update soon!


  21. You’re right that Family Link doesn’t quite hit the mark for a lot of kids. I’m in the process of testing a possible solution for your Chromebook that is not easily disabled, like Mobicip. Please look for an update soon!


  22. Hi, Terri – I’m in the process of testing a possible solution for your Chromebook that is not easily disabled, like Mobicip and is more useful than Family Link. It’s called Blocksi, and I should have some results soon. In the meantime, get the WIFI she’s using filtered so it stays away from porn. Do you have access to your router’s dashboard? You can change it’s DNS to OpenDNS’ Family Shield, which you can read about here.


  23. Very good review. Have a question: I downloaded the Family Link app on my iPhone and started the steps for creating a child account for my chromebook; right at the start, the app lists as a requirement that an android device with a certain sw level is available for the child to use; if you say that you don’t have such a device you are not allowed to proceed. The question is whether an Android device to be registered for the child is really a requirement and the account creation would not be allowed to complete successfully without such a device… or I can ignore that and instead of registering an Android device for the child I can just register the chromebook? My issue is, I do not have any Android devices and I wanted my child to use an old chromebook that won’t ever be enabled to run Android apps. Thanks.

  24. Got chromebooks for the twins (7yr) and have spent the last two days trying to set it up for them. Success creating <13 google accounts, setting up Family Link, but when I log out and they log in they cannot access google play at all. In fact, the app is not even available. I;m tracing back my steps to figure out where I messed up; if I selected something that would have kept them from downloading google play altogether and I just can’t figure it out. Have you heard of others who are having similar issues?

  25. There’s no requirement (that I know of) to use Family Link by registering an Android device. I downloaded the Family Link app on my iPhone and created a test account on our Chromebook without any Android device registration. I hope that helps!


  26. Hi, I’ve been hearing the same thing from other parents who are using Family Link on Chromebooks. Once the FL account is created for the child, then Google Play is no longer accessible. You may be able to purchase/download apps with your account and make them available via Family Share.

    Separately, if you’ll allow me to share this piece of advice, but 7-years-old is maybe too young for kids to start developing an idea that they have a device of their own. Our recommendation would be to have 1 family Chromebook that has separate logins for each family member. This helps put off the false idea that kids are entitled to internet privacy in the home.

    Best to you!

  27. Pretty disappointing this is only half implemented. I would like to have some management of our kids Chromebooks and allow them to install apps from the Play store. Right now it is basically all or nothing. Pretty disappointing.

  28. is there a way to set this up with an account I’ve already made for my daughter without having to create a new one?

  29. I got today a Chromebook for my 10 year old. Bottom line: he either (1) has no apps (other than the basic pre-installed ones) and surfs a parental controlled internet, by logging into his own account; or (2) has apps downloaded from the Google Store on the parent account, by using the parent account having with no available parental control filtering. Reason: Google OS does not allow you to “share” apps purchased from the parent account onto the kids account, on the one hand. And on the other hand, Google simultaneously, does not allow the kid account to have the Google Store portal to buy any apps itself. So you are basically bashed both ways. You may think; aha, I’ll just lie and say my kid is over 13, give him a grown-up account, and then get a third party parental control like Norton to give parental controls. Fool. Google disallowed third party parental control software on its revised Chromebook OS; namely, the only one that did work Mobicip is disallowed by Google from working. Net net net result: kid plays apps on your account without any parental controls, and you can’t buy any; and his kid’s account is only rarely used for surfing the internet with parental controls but with no other apps. Final bottom line: get iOs or Windows OS, Chromebook OS is a turkey.

  30. Agree with N. You can’t do anything on Chromebook with a family account. There is absolutely NO way to get apps on the childs monitored account. So, they have to use my account. It’s garbage if you’re trying to use it for anything other than surfing the web. You can not use Family Share as an options as suggested above either.

  31. My 10 year old just got his own chromebook and I already had a gmail account setup for him under my account. The lockdowns on all of this are extremely excessive and I am extremely disappointed. Why have parental control settings for Google Play if they cant even access Google Play? Pointless. Also, I installed Kids Youtube and he cant even see that app on his account! With parental controls and family link we should be allowed to give them access to GooglePlay. This is nonsense. I am consdering creating a dummy email account for him to use to login so he can play roblox. This setup is hoplessly broken!!!!

  32. Michael A. Robinson

    This is really annoying. What’s the point of giving me the option of setting what apps my daughter can or cannot see if she can’t even get to Google Play?

  33. I’m with all the other parents and grandparents. All directions have been followed but can’t access the Google Play to download even Youtube Kids even though they are on the administrators account. To “fix” this Google said they could do it but it would $100 a Chromebook! REALLY??? It’s an app that doesn’t work correctly. I’m beginning to think Apple was the way to go or to never use Family Link and just supervise their use. Is there anyway to get back to “square one” and start with just regular email accounts for them?

  34. Great post. Thanks for doing this.

    On the limitations.

    #4 – You can put a school g-suit account on a Chromebook with a user managed by family Link. I am doing it now with my kids. (It is Android that you can’t have two accounts)

    Also, Google Play support has been added to the Chromebook. It wasn’t that Google doesn’t understand that was needed it was a technical issue. Remember Google Play on Chromebook is running in an emulator with in Chrome OS so it is different than an Android device.

  35. After the December 14, 2018 Family Link update, do you know if children under 13 can now use Google Play with Chromebooks? I’ve been holding out on setting up the new Chromebook in hopes news of this will manifest . . . Please help! 🙂

  36. Chromebooks were just officially added to Family Link last week, which we are testing over break now that we’ve published our iOS parental control post. Look for an update!

  37. Hello! Now that our iOS testing is done, we are heading to Chromebooks next to see if this update holds water. Lord knows that Google hasn’t been too impressive with Chromebooks recently!

  38. Thanks, Brett. I’d like to learn more about how you’re using the G-Suite emails with Family Link. Can we connect over email? [email protected]. Yep, now that our iOS parental controls post is out we’re moving to Chromebooks next to see if Google has made it better. I’m not holding my breath until I see some evidence!


  39. So far as I can tell, nothing has changed with regard to a child’s access to Google Play, YouTube, or any apps on a Chromebook. For a child to use any of those services, they will need to log in on a parent’s account, thus rendering all those neato parental controls pointless.

  40. very very dissapointed after all the time I spent reading about this topic on the internet, resetting the Chromebook to use our business account as the master only to find out that the Supervised user stuff DOESNT EVEN EXIST ANYMORE AND THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE ABOUT IT ON THE INTERNET DIDNT EVEN HAVE THE CONSIDERATION TO POST AN UPDATE SO I WOULD KNOW THIS, infuriating, just a waste of my time. Now I ask my daughter if she needs this google play thing that you all have been talking about, and she says absolutely she needs it, so I have gone nowhere in two hours and she no longer has her account on the Chromebook since I wiped it away with the reset, but I suppose I can add it as a secondary and she’d be back where she started, with no protection adding onto years of no protection.

  41. Hi, Dave – I’m sorry about the frustration. The removal of supervised users was frustrating for a lot of parents, as we mentioned in the opening paragraph to the blog post. If you have specific questions about what to do next, please let us know.


  42. I realize this is an older article – but I recently got on the Chromebook bandwagon and bought a Lenovo N42, and only realize now that Google Family Link doesn’t work on that particular machine. It says it must have a profile migration but then only gives instructions as if this is a school machine and if you have a google suite professional account, which I don’t. Great, thanks Lenovo. They tell me to talk to Google and of course I never actually get to talk to anyone with Google. Is there any other work-around for limiting what 2 kids (9 and 7) can access on this chromebook?

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